Nutrition for Rapid Fat Loss: Simple Yet Effective Tips

Even if international travel is off the cards this year for some of us, beach season is still upon us! Unfortunately, many people resort to fad diets in a last-ditch attempt to arrive at the seaside with a flat tummy, and as lots of us have let ourselves go a bit during the COVID pandemic, my guess is that as many people are currently boarding the fad diet wagon as ever. So, I hope you’re not one of them. In this blog I’ll share some simple tips you can try if you want to achieve relatively rapid fat loss in a healthy way. Don’t worry, there won’t be any calorie counting, jogging on the treadmill, or living off nothing but juices. This article is just a primer, so if you’re interested in healthy eating in general, be sure to check out our free e-book here!

  

Key takeaways

  • To shed fat quickly, you need to burn more calories than you store, while doing what you can to maximise your fat-free mass (muscle, bone, etc).
  • To retain your fat-free mass during weight loss, you need to do resistance training. Just 2 sessions a week, each comprising about 6 exercises that target all your major muscles should work well if you're a novice. To start, you probably only need about 2 strenuous sets of 8 to 16 reps per exercise per session.
  • Eating enough protein will help you retain your muscle mass and keep your appetite at bay. Aim for 0.4 to 0.8 g high-quality protein per kg bodyweight per meal. A daily intake of 1.6 to 2.4 g protein per kg bodyweight works for most of us.
  • Centre your diet on relatively lean sources of protein (e.g., lean meat, some fish, seafood), non-starchy vegetables (e.g., green vegetables), and low-sugar fruits (e.g., berries). Avoid added fats and caloric sweeteners at this time.
  • Try "time-restricted eating". Only consume calorie-containing items within a 6- to 12-h eating window each day. For fat loss, the sweet spot is often 3 meals over an 8 to 10 h eating window.
  • Getting enough sleep will help you ensure the weight you lose is fat, not fat-free mass. Getting 7 to 9 h of actual sleep per night is enough for most adults.
  • Track your progress! As a minimum, monitor your bodyweight and resistance training progress.

 

Rapid fat loss is all about burning more fat than you store

If your goal is rapid fat loss, the fastest way to achieve this is to burn more calories than you store, while doing what you can to maximise your fat-free mass (your muscle mass, bone mass, etc). The number of calories you consume is therefore crucial if weight loss is your goal, although this doesn't necessarily mean you should track your calorie intake. To hold onto your muscle mass, you need to signal to your body that it needs to keep its muscle. The key signals for this are resistance training and eating enough protein.

  

Resistance training is key

Resistance training often entails lifting weights, but well-designed workouts using other forms of resistance (e.g., bodyweight exercises) can do the trick too. If you’re a novice, as few as 2 sessions a week, each comprising about 6 exercises that target all your major muscles, will work well. Just 2 hard sets of 8 to 16 reps per exercise per session should provide enough of a stimulus to get stronger and at least maintain your muscle when starting out.

Check out the table below for a sample training session for strength training novice. (Since UK gyms are currently open, the session includes exercises requiring equipment.) This session is designed to be done twice a week. After about 10 mins of a general warm up (e.g., 5 minutes of brisk walking, plus some gentle dynamic stretches), start the session. Do 2 warm-up sets of the first 4 exercises, plus 1 warm-up set of the remaining 2. For the work sets, choose weights that are challenging but doable for the target rep ranges – the weights will be about right if you have 1 to 4 repetitions in the tank at the end of the set. Rest as necessary between work sets - 2 to 4 minutes will do.

 

Exercise

Sets x repetitions

*A1) Romanian deadlift

2 x 8 to 12

*A2) Dumbbell bench press

2 x 8 to 12

B) Dumbbell split squat

2 x 8 to 12

C) Dumbbell 1-arm row

2 x 8 to 12

*D1) Dumbbell overhead press

2 x 12 to 16

*D2) Seated neutral-grip pulldown 

2 x 12 to 16

*For these exercises, alternate between the two exercises listed (e.g., A1 and A2). For example, do a set of Romanian deadlifts, rest a minute or so, do a set of dumbbell bench presses, rest a minute, do your final set of Romanian deadlifts, rest a minute, then do your final set of dumbbell bench presses. Please understand that this a generic beginner session, and the best exercises for you might well differ from those listed!

 

Eating enough protein is important for your muscles and appetite control

Once you’ve stimulated your muscles via resistance training, you need to supply the nutrients required to build new proteins in your muscles. Unsurprisingly, high-quality protein provides the best raw materials for this. Aiming to get 0.4 to 0.8 g high-quality protein per kg bodyweight per meal is a good start. Practically, a fist-sized portion (or slightly larger) of protein-dense foods (e.g., eggs, meat, fish, seafood) at each meal usually provides about this amount of protein. A daily intake of 1.6 to 2.4 g protein per kg bodyweight is about right for most, and if you’re a vegan, are already quite lean, and/or are over age 65, I’d favour the upper end of this range.  

Please note that protein is not just about your muscles though, for a big chunk of protein tends to be better at keeping appetite at bay than an equivalent number of calories from carbohydrate or fat. What’s more, your body will also burn more calories digesting and metabolising protein than an equivalent amount of carbohydrate or fat. Protein FTW.

  

Choose foods with large volumes but few calories 

One thing to be aware of is that your total calorie intake is pivotal if your goal is fat loss, and when people pick less calorie-dense items they tend to consume fewer total calories. It therefore makes sense to focus your diet on relatively lean sources of protein (avoid very fatty protein sources, such as pork belly and duck), non-starchy vegetables (e.g., green vegetables), and low-sugar fruits (e.g., berries). Meanwhile, cut down on starchy vegetables (e.g., root vegetables), sugary fruits (e.g., grapes, mangoes, pineapples, and dried fruits). And avoid adding fats (e.g., butter, olive oil) and caloric sweeteners (e.g., sugar, honey) to foods when possible. Below is an example menu plan for a 70-kg woman.

 

Pre-breakfast (8AM)

Green tea (no calories); glass of water

Breakfast (10AM)

3 soft-boiled eggs with celery sticks to use as dippers; 250 g low-fat natural yoghurt sprinkled with cinnamon, a few strawberries, and a handful of blueberries; black coffee; glass of water

Lunch (2PM)

2 x 90-g tins of sardines in brine (drained), large salad (spinach, tomatoes, red onion, beetroot, chili); cup of melon; mint tea; glass of water

Dinner (6PM)

Grilled chicken breast with a baked sweet potato, steamed broccoli, and herbs of choice; 2 kiwi fruits

 

 

For rapid fat loss, try time-restricted eating

Time-restricted eating entails only consuming calorie-containing items within a period of 12 h or less each day. For example, you could restrict your intake to between 10AM and 7PM each day – a 9-h “eating window”. As discussed at length in our free e-book, time-restricted eating can be a very helpful strategy, especially if your goal is rapid fat loss. The reason is that many of us spread out our intakes of calorie-consuming items over as long as 15 h each day, and when people implement time-restricted eating they tend to unintentionally consume fewer calories, resulting in weight loss and other health benefits (e.g., reduced blood pressure).

If you want to give time-restricted eating a go, in this context I suggest you try a 6- to 12-h eating window comprising 2 to 4 meals. (Note that if your goal is rapid fat loss, I’d skip the snacks and just eat proper meals.) My experience is that 3 meals over an 8 to 10 h eating window is the sweet spot for most people interested in rapid fat loss – shorter than that is hard to stick to, and longer than that tends to result in more calories consumed.

Please note that it’s fine to drink non-caloric drinks outside of the eating window, so feel free to have black coffee or tea (no milk or sugar) before it begins, and caffeine-free teas (e.g., rooibos, mint) after it ends.

Because of the way your metabolism is wired by your body’s clock, it’s arguably metabolically “best” to have your eating window relatively early in your waking day (e.g., 7AM to 5PM might be a little better than 11AM to 9PM). This said, the keys are just to a) pick an eating window that works for your lifestyle, and b) keep this window as consistent as possible from day to day.

 

Getting enough sleep supports fat loss

Getting enough sleep not only helps keep your appetite in check, it also helps spare your muscles at the expense of your fat. One of the best early studies showing this had overweight and obese adults follow a standardised weight loss diet. For a 2-week period they were allowed an 8.5-h sleep opportunity each night. For another 2-week period they were allowed just 5.5 h in bed each night. While weight loss was similar during these 2 periods, when the adults had 5.5 h in bed each night they lost 55% less fat and 60% more fat-free mass. Not ideal.

So, doing what you can to get enough sleep is bound to pay off. National Sleep Foundation guidelines recommend that 18- to 64-year-old adults get 7 to 9 h sleep per night. Needless to say, you're not asleep every minute you're in bed, so you might need something like 8 to 10 h in bed to get 7 to 9 h of actual sleep.

 

Track your progress

Finally, since you’re working towards a goal, it makes sense to gauge your progress. If you’re implementing one of or all the tips above, try tracking the behaviour(s) in a simple spreadsheet. This needn’t be time consuming – it can just be a calendar with a cross in the day’s cell if you completed the behaviour. The table below is a snippet of how you could do this. 

 

Date

Bodyweight (kg)

Consumed 3 x high-protein meals per day

Only consumed calories between 10AM and 7PM

07/07/21

70.8

X

X

08/07/21

70.7

X

X

 

It also makes sense to track certain outcomes in this context. For example, you might want to monitor your bodyweight under standardised conditions (nude, first thing in the morning, after going to the toilet, before eating or drinking anything). Don’t worry about small day-to-day fluctuations – pay attention to the trend over the last 7 days or so. You could also measure your waist circumference from time to time - maybe once a week. 

I’d also track your resistance training progress. If you’re lifting heavier weights in the same rep range as previously and your bodyweight has decreased, you’re probably losing fat and at least keeping your muscle!

 

Conclusion

If you need to shed a few kilos quickly in a healthy way, I hope you've found this blog helpful.

Do let us know how you get on via Instagram!

 

Written by Greg Potter